“Salt and Vinegar” – Isle of Man trip report, July 2012

by Alex Tasker

Isle of Man

We all arrived by ferry on the Wednesday evening.  After ominous forecasts the clear sky and flat-calm crossing promised a full weekend’s diving ahead.  Apart from the odd closed road and missed call to our skipper Mike, we got our gear unloaded at base and settled into our accommodation without incident.  The house is comfy with a super view of the hills above Port Erin.

As some of us were leaving early on the Sunday, and to capitalise on the good weather, we did three dives on Thursday.  The boat is exceptionally well set up for diving, and has a nice turn of speed too.

A seal-tastic start to the weekend with a super dive on the Burroo.  Tony’s photography was interfered with by a seal tugging his fins; your reporter had previously done a complete roll while the cheeky chap hung onto my fins 🙂 This was great fun but did distract us from the pretty reef populated with various crustaceans, anenomes etc and lots of fish life – perhaps that’s why the seals were there? Another few seal appearances ensured everyone was delighted with our first dive.

Our second outing was a shallow bimble while the boat was tied up to the Cletts – the big rocks to the South of Calf Sound.  Several seals were checking us out from the rocks and after a quiet wander up and down the channel, seals were found on the edge of the deeper water.

Appropriately for teatime, we dived in the Sugarloaf Caves – a great demonstration of the local geology and a very atmospheric – but safe – ‘cave’ dive.  The Fairy Hall is open above the waterline along its whole length but its sloping profile gives a real sense of enclosure 12m down.

An early start on Friday, to dive the Citrine, run aground in fog and broken into numerous pieces below impressive cliffs.  We were welcomed to the wreck by some very chilled – out wrasse and found lots more life exploring the boiler, winch and various other remains.

Dive two was in two parts.  Firstly about 20-30 minutes on the Clan MacMaster, also lost in fog to the North West of Calf Sound.  Sea hares, nudis and the biggest seal we had ever seen were highlights.  We made our way out past a big ‘anenome wall’ into the current for part two – a thrilling drift at about 2 knots across the action-packed bottom of the Sound.  Roger and Rose were the ‘winners’ having travelled 0.52nm!

We all got together for dinner for the first time and had some great food and Okells beer in the Station in Port Erin.  There may have been singing, or something a little bit like singing anyway…

On Saturday morning, after 5 great dives and no rain to speak of, our luck held out as we dived the maze of gullies in the Skerranes off Lang Ness point.  Gold sinny wrasse, leopard-spotted gobies and dendronouts frondosus – oh, and seals and congers – all made an appearance.

Our penultimate plunge was a return to the Burroo where we stayed in the lee and pottered about the pretty and richly-populated rocks below the kelp forest.  Steve’s encounter with a lion’s-mane jellyfish reminded us all to keep some vinegar in our dive kits – it took us an hour to get him to a chip shop 🙂

For Saturday night we stayed in with a takeaway and a few bottles of wine and a little banter around the dining table.  There’s a special prize for anyone who can produce a picture of TG dressed to impress in the ’70s!

One last plunge on Sunday, on Garden Rock – supposedly a “last resort” dive site as the wind was not in our favour, but a superb 3-level dive with kelp forest, rocky slope and sandy bottom all offering different sights.

Of the eight dives, six were somebody’s “best dive of the trip” but we all agreed that the trip ended on a real high note when a dog was spotted leaving its mark on Tony’s dive gear!

Have a look at some of the photos.

Some additional Feedback from Steve Watson :

Hi “Team”,

Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed my very recent Isle of Man trip with what was a great group, led magnificently as usual by the one and only Roger!  Fifteen years of UK diving with New Horizons, and this must surely rank alongside Scapa as the highlight of my experiences.  Fantastic accommodation, beautiful scenery, even better diving, (clear and clean with so much life – seals galore, congers, nudibranchs, wrasse of all types, spider crabs, sea spiders, SatNav Tom Tom Blennies, porpoise and the list goes on) – just magnificent!  Really, really want to do this one again!